Friday 31 January 2014

February's Reading List

I did pretty well with my planned reading in January, reading all the books I planned plus some more.  I did stall on one though, which was Emma & Knightley by Rachel Billington.  The problem I had with this was just that I found it depressing.  In the book Emma and Mr Knightley are still in the fairly early stage of their marriage, a year or 18 months in, I forget which, and he is quite cold towards her.  Plus, I had hoped at the end of Emma that she had grown up a bit but this isn't being portrayed here.  It's a shame though, as the writer's style is pretty good, aside from a whole chapter when Emma is referred to as Miss Woodhouse instead of Mrs Knightley.  I like her style but not the content! I hate to give up on something though, so I might still give it another go.

So my planned reading for Feb is as follows:

Fitzwilliam Darcy: Such I was by Carol Cromlin - this is a book I have in luscious signed copy, as I was lucky enough to win it (woot!).  I believe it's a prequel of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's point of view.  In Darcy's successful proposal to Elizabeth he refers to his upbringing and how he ended up being a person she objected to in his first proposal, 'Such I was, from eight to eight and twenty...' and this book explores how his upbringing could have been.

Highlander's Hope by Collette Cameron - I picked this one up as a freebie, but I've seen good reviews of it, and learned that in Scotland you could be married just by saying you were in front of witnesses, and apparently this is used to trick the heroine in this book! Very intriguing!

Caroline's Comeuppance  by Tess Quinn - I won this one too! This is a follow up to Pride and Prejudice focussing on Caroline Bingley.  I don't know what type of comeuppance Caroline gets.  Apparently it's not too harsh, which has disappointed some people, but Jane Austen herself was quite forgiving of the less worthy characters in her novels, and also in a lot of Austenesque works Caroline is portrayed as some kind of horrible villain when in reality she didn't do much wrong aside from being a bit of a snobby social climber and trying to stop her brother marrying Jane, which she may have done with good motives, so I am not out for her blood.

Epic Fail by Claire Lazebnik - I understand this is a modern update of Pride and Prejudice and the author has also done an updated version of Persuasion.  Don't know anything else about it though!

Nameless by Claire Kent - I've read a few by this author under a different pen-name, Noelle Adams. This one is a contemporary romance, with a one night stand resulting in a pregnancy.

So I plan to read these, and perhaps some others.  Happy reading :)

Thursday 30 January 2014

The Man Who Loved Pride and Prejudice by Abigail Reynolds

I've read quite a few books by Abigail Reynolds; she's written a number of variations on Pride and Prejudice, changing certain elements and exploring how it could have affected the path of the story.  However, this was the first thing I've read by her that is set in modern times and I wasn't quite sure what to expect.  This is is modern day version of Pride and Prejudice.  Cassie, who is a marine biologist, meets Calder, who is the rich son of a congressman through a friend of hers starting a relationship with a friend of his.

Cassie and Calder's relationship starts off badly when he refuses to dance with her (sound familiar?!) but it's not only that which prejudices her against him.  Firstly, she has been badly hurt by a previous relationship breakup, and doesn't really have much trust in men, she has a few secrets that she's been keeping from everybody and she also doesn't think it's within the realms of possibility that somebody from Calder's background would be interested in her for anything other than a quick fling.  Calder's father is a Republican senator for whom image is everything, and the senator is also pretty anti-science, so when Calder finds himself interested in Cassie he fights it, knowing that she would be completely unacceptable to his family.

Obviously, since this is a modern update of P&P we know that Calder feels more for Cassie than she realises but the penny doesn't drop for a long time. In P&P, Lizzy feels sorry for Darcy's feelings once she's digested his letter, and she has unwittingly led him to have feelings for her, whereas Cassie has both given active encouragement to Calder and been very cold towards him to preserve her own feelings without any thought for his, so she has more to feel bad about. Plus Calder's version of the letter spells eloquently how much he cared, and how she's basically ripped out his heart and trampled all over it. One thing I think Abigail Reynolds generally does well is the type of pain which has you gripped to your kindle, and you feel bad for both Calder and Cassie.  But even when things begin to look hopeful they will have some family obstacles to overcome.

I thought this was an interesting update. A lot of the modern versions of Pride and Prejudice that I've read have very young protagonists but I liked them being a little bit older, and I also thought it was clever that instead of both being misled by vanity, instead they were misled because they both saw themselves as unworthy in some way - Cassie can't see a rich man staying interested and Calder has never felt loved by anybody. I thought him being part of such a ruthless, image-conscious senator's family gave an understandable reason for Calder to fight his attraction to Cassie. I liked the insights into the mechanics of Cassie's work too.  On the flipside, I found it frustrating that neither of them would talk to each other about how they felt for so long.  There is a lot lacking in Mr Darcy's courtship of Lizzy but at least at Hunsford she knew what she was turning down; at this couple's Hunsford moment it's not at all clear what Calder wants from her.  Also, Darcy gets the letter straight to her, Calder's 'letter' is delivered in a much more roundabout fashion and leaves a good deal to chance. It's understandable because he has so much less self-belief than Darcy, but it's still frustrating. It's good that by the end of the book we see these two work through some of their baggage and family issues, particularly Calder.

I enjoyed this book and I'd recommend it. There is another book in this series, 'Morning Light' which I believe is influenced by Jane Austen's 'Persuasion', which I'll try and read soon.

Saturday 25 January 2014

Savor by Monica Murphy

This is the third and final book in the Billionaire Bachelors series.  In the first book Archer, Gage and Matt made a million dollar bet over who would be the last to fall in love, each betting on themselves.  Archer and Gage are both now in steady relationships, leaving Matt as the winner, but they've noticed that he seems to be fighting attraction to his PA at his winery, and agree that the bet will be rendered null and void if nothing happens between them in the next 45 days.

Bryn James is a girl who does her best not to be noticed.  She's had some horrible experiences in the past, men seem to see her as just a sex object, even though she actually isn't experienced at all.  She comes from a small town and has a really poor view of her self-worth.  Bryn really likes Matt, and now Ivy and Marina (Archer and Gage's girlfriends) have been trying to talk her into giving herself a bit of a makeover to see if Matt will finally sit up and take notice.

I have never heard of Bryn being used as a name for a female, it's an old-fashioned man's name to me, but once I'd got over this mental image I found this an easy to read romance.  The only thing is that quite a few things felt contrived to me.  Firstly, Bryn is meant to be stunningly attractive, but Matt has never noticed this because she has a bun, no make up and baggy clothes.  if she's that stunning, I find this surprising.  Secondly, Bryn has had a history of being treated like a woman from the 1970s, literally being chased round her office by her first boss, more than one attempted sexual attack on her, crude sexual innuendo being directed her way at a party in the book and she is blameless in all of this.  Are men really such sexual predators?  I would hope this type of behaviour being usual would be a thing of the past.  Also, although Bryn's reasoning for not wanting to get into a relationship with Matt were sound, his reason seemed pretty weak.

That being said, this was pretty entertaining to read, even if it did stretch credibility for me a few times.  The ending is just lovely, it's sweet as well as being funny, but it would have been nice if there had been a bit more, it was a little bit sudden.

It was good to round off the stories off all three friends.  My personal favourite was the first one, Archer and Ivy's story, Crave.

Thursday 23 January 2014

The Red Chrysanthemum by Linda Beutler

This is a 'what if' variation on Pride and Prejudice.  The story begins at Lambton when Mr Darcy goes to see Lizzy.  In P&P she's just finished reading a very distressing letter from Jane, but in this book the letter doesn't contain any alarming news and Mr Darcy gets the opportunity to speak to Elizabeth. She and the Gardiners are invited to Pemberley, get to know Mr Darcy and Georgiana better and Mr Bingley is made aware of Jane's feelings towards him.

One of the big themes in this book is the language of flowers.  Each flower has a meaning, and Darcy and Georginana prepare a nosegay for Lizzy that would hint to Darcy's continuing feelings for her.  In return, Lizzy leaves a floral message for Mr Darcy which is a bit more coy, but the centre of it is a red chrysanthemum, which means 'I love'.  Unfortunately, the stem is cut too short and it falls out of the arrangement so he doesn't see it at the time. Lizzy knows that Darcy has feelings for her but feels that she can't expect a man she rejected so vehemently to propose again, and Darcy knows her feelings have softened somewhat towards him but can't trust that they've changed enough to risk a second proposal. Some things are too important to leave to the language of flowers...

I enjoyed this romance although I felt that the characters were more open with each other than I felt was likely - Georgiana's near elopement was known by pretty much everybody rather than being the closely-guarded secret that it was in Pride and Prejudice, and the characters were also more touchy-feely than I felt was likely. I also felt that it was unlikely that after so much encouragement on both sides that either Elizabeth or Darcy would have doubts in relation to the other's feelings. Aside from these quibbles I found the characters amusing and engaging.

I would add in a warning for those people who don't like sex scenes, the last section of the book following the wedding deals with Darcy's lustful thoughts and Elizabeth's sexual awakening in some detail, so for those people I'd advise skipping the last 60 pages or so and going straight to the epilogue.

Sunday 19 January 2014

Find Wonder in All Things by Karen M Cox

This is an updated version of Jane Austen's Persuasion, which if you don't know, is a second chance love story. In Persuasion, Anne Elliot is persuaded to give up her imprudent engagement to a naval captain and comes to regret her decision deeply. This can be a hard one to update, I think, as Anne's decision was easier to excuse and understand, given the historical context.  In the early 1800s she would have been completely dependent on her husband in the way that a modern woman wouldn't, so if he'd have been unsuccessful in his career not only could she have faced penury but could well have had a clutch of children dependent on her.

In Find Wonder in All Things we first meet Laurel and James as children in the 1980s. James is staying for the summer with a friend. He doesn't come back into the area for another few years, when Laurel is about 18 and James a couple of years older. They have a whirlwind romance and fall madly in love.  James's family situation falls apart and he has to drop out of college due to finances.  He wants Laurel to move away with him and pressurises her to leave.  However, Laurel just isn't ready to take that kind of a risk; her family situation isn't the greatest due to her mother's depression, and she's just 18 years old. We don't see the first relationship between them in Persuasion but I think that showing this really helps build sympathy for both James and Laurel.  On the one hand she is all he can rely on and she is letting him down, but she is just 18 and he's steamrolling her somewhat so that she feels she can't tell him to slow down.

Fast forward another 8 or so years and Laurel's life is pretty lonely whereas James has become a huge success, having invented some software that has made him a millionaire. He's never had another relationship that he could commit to after Laurel and living in the middle of nowhere Laurel hasn't exactly had many chances of finding love. She wishes that she hadn't let James out of her life all those years ago, but doesn't believe that he'd be interested in trying again.

Although this book works as a romance in its own right I think having read Persuasion gives an extra dimension, as you have the added enjoyment of spotting people and events from Miss Austen's masterpiece and on the whole they were well-represented, although I wanted to give James a bit of a wake up shake a few times! Some of the updates were pretty ingenious, such as the fall and head injury from the original becoming a water skiing accident. I liked the update of the letter but felt it was delivered too publicly. Having said that, I can't see anybody managing to equal that letter from Persuasion, it was perfection!

I really enjoyed this book and I'd definitely recommend it. Karen M Cox has also written an updated version of Pride and Prejudice, '1932', set in the US depression which is also well worth reading in my opinion.

Saturday 11 January 2014

Torn - Monica Murphy

Torn - Monica Murphy
This is the second book in the Billionaire Bachelor Club series. The couple from the first book, 'Crave' are referred to, but this is essentially a standalone book. Not believing in love, Gage Emerson has made a bet with his two friends for the sum of a million dollars. The winner is the one who falls in love last. Archer is already out of the running, which leaves only Gage and Matt as the potential winners.

The story begins with property developer Gage at a business function. He's hoping to meet a member of the Molina family, who he's hoping to buy some property from. Here he meets the alluring Marina Knight, who is part of the Molina family on her mother's side. Marina is trying desperately hard to make a success of her business, an artisan bakery she rubs with her aunt. This bakery is in the middle of the properties that Gage wants to buy so Marina is against him, despite being very attracted to him:

"I'm drawn to all that heady temptation, despite wanting to also knee him in the balls and tell him to go to hell."

Gage is also torn - he's very enticed by Marina, but his primary reason for getting to meet her was to get an in with the Molinas, plus he doesn't really want a relationship, but he finds himself getting drawn in, partly through their sexual attraction, and partly through contrariness at not having her falling at his feet:

"...when I hear a no it makes me work that much harder to turn it into a yes."

What follows is a steamy romance where we see whether they can overcome being torn between wanting each other and wanting their respective businesses to succeed. On the whole this was an enjoyable read, but I had a bit of a quibble with how fast everything goes. I thought they got physical more quickly than was plausible and then into serious relationship territory in no time at all. I'd have preferred there to be more of a build up. Also these two have a big argument which is completely justified on her side but a bit paranoid on his side which seemed a bit out of character. However, it was a nice escape for an hour or two, and I've preordered the third book, 'Savor'.

Tuesday 7 January 2014

January's Reading List

So this year I have the target of reading 100 books (like that's going to happen). To achieve this I'd have to read an average of 8 or 9 books a month.  I have a list of books I'd like to read during the year, so I thought each month I'd try and choose a few of these, and the rest of my monthly reads can be whatever I feel like reading at the time.  This is the plan anyway, who knows how well it'll work out!

January's list goes like this:

A Subsequent Proposal by Joana Starnes - the lovely Jakki Leatherberry offered me this book to review for Leatherbound Reviews. I've read this already this month, first book of the year!

Emma & Knightley by Rachel Billington - this is an 'Emma' sequel, as you can guess from the title.  I picked this up at the library so must get a move on with it.

The Red Chrysanthemum by Linda Beutler.  This is a Pride and Prejudice variation.  I have this one signed hard copy as I was lucky enough to win it. I love my kindle, but a signed book is so special.

Torn by Monica Murphy. This is a contemporary romance.  It's the second book in a set of three about a million dollar bet on who will fall in love last.  I read the first book, Crave, a while ago, and it was pretty good.

The last of my planned books for the month is Find Wonder in All Things by Karen Cox which I've had on my kindle for nearly a year! This is modern adaptation of 'Persuasion'. I've only read a few of those so I'm interested to read this.  I read 1932 by this author last year and I really enjoyed it, so I have high hopes of enjoying this one.

Thursday 2 January 2014

2014's Reading

I am generally bad at setting to be read lists. I plan my reading and then just read whatever I fancy at the time! Last year I started to keep track of the books I'd read and what I thought of them on Goodreads, so at least I know know what I've read even if I don't know what I'm reading next.

For this year I thought I'd try and plan each month as it comes, but there are a few books that I'd like to read at some point this year.

1) Something by Jane Austen - last year I read Mansfield Park for only the second time and I liked it so much more than I had as a teen. I've reread Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Emma numerous times but I've only read Northanger Abbey once, and I think I may have read Sense and Sensibility perhaps twice, but not for a number of years. So I'd like to reread one of these latter two.

2) Sanditon - this was a book that Jane Austen didn't get a chance to finish. I saw a version recommended that has been finished by somebody else and the person who recommended it said that they couldn't see the join so I thought I'd see if I agree! The link to the version I have is below:

3) Some Shakespeare - a few times last year I saw references to things I'd read having elements of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" or "Much Ado About Nothing" about them and I am very hazy on these plays. If I can go and see them on stage I might do that instead, but otherwise I will try and read them, although I haven't read any Shakespeare except the texts we studied at school, so heaven knows how I'll get on!

4) Lastly, I am a big admirer of the Canadian author. L M. Montgomery, who wrote in the early part  of the 20th century I believe. I've read her Anne books, and her Emily books, plus some of the others, my favourite of which is The. Blue Castle. I picked up an omnibus of her work last year and I'd like to try one of her books I haven't read such as "Magic for Marigold" or "Jane of Lantern Hill"

For January's reading  I'll be starting off with "The Subsequent Proposal" by. Joana Starnes which I've been lucky enough to be sent for review courtesy of Leatherbound Reviews.  Happy reading!